PERRY, Maine — After handling dozens of phone calls from concerned residents about this year’s tax bills and the rate used to compute them, the Perry selectmen will open the topic up for discussion at their Monday meeting.
Selectman John Cook said he has received more than a dozen calls from property owners who have expressed both confusion and anger over the handling of this year’s tax bills. Although the mill rate has remained at $11.80 per $1,000 of valuation, it is the valuation itself that has dramatically increased.
“The problem is that a revaluation was passed at the 2009 annual town meeting — it had been rejected in 2006 — but it was voted to take place over a three-year span, with the new values taking effect in 2012,” Cook said Thursday.
Cook said the tax bills that were recently mailed to property owners, however, used the newer valuations.
Karen Raye, chairman of the selectmen, clarified Friday, however, that voters at the annual town meeting in August determined that the new valuations would take effect this year rather than wait until next tax season. She said town reports announcing the meeting were hand-delivered to each residence and that townspeople had every opportunity to participate in the process.
Cook, however, maintained that using the new valuations has confused many residents and that a series of public hearings should have been held to help clarify the change.
“This process isn’t even finished,” Cook said. “Some properties’ bills increased by 50 percent and some have doubled.”
Cook’s own bill jumped from $450 to $3,000 on back acreage, he said. “The big problem is that there are so many inequities and all this should have been explained to the residents.”
Cook said that since a small group of only 38 people out of a town population of about 850 attended the annual meeting in August, public hearings should have been held since then to explain the revaluation effects.
“To make matters worse, the revaluation wasn’t ready and bills were sent out two weeks late. That gives residents only five days to correct their bills [with the assessor],” he said. “I’ve received 15 calls from people who have tried to set up appointments at the town office and just keep getting an answering machine because the office is only open part time. It is wrong that these people can’t get through to discuss their bills.”
Raye said she has also received a few phone calls. “It is certainly understandable,” she said. “Whenever you have a revaluation, some property values go up, some go down, and some stay the same.”
She said there is an online abatement form on the town office website at: http://www.perrymaine.org/. She said the assessor’s agent, Brenda Gove, is available at the town office one day a week. “Certainly I encourage people to talk to Brenda if they believe an error has been made,” Raye said.
Cook said he plans to ask at Monday’s meeting that the assessor hold public hearings on the changes and reissue the tax bills based on last year’s values. “This won’t affect our budget,” he said. “That’s already based on the previous values.”
In other business on Monday, the selectmen will determine how to fill the seat vacated by David Turner’s recent resignation. Turner resigned last week because he will be spending a good part of the year in Florida.
Cook said that although his wife has accepted a position in New Hampshire and he will be living there part time, he will not resign. He said he will be coming back and forth to Maine and will keep up on town affairs and attend all meetings.
The selectmen meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 7, at the municipal building.